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Learning Kanji With Poop– yes, really

4 Jun

So guess what the #1 bestselling textbook in Japan is? It is:

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日本一楽しい漢字ドリル うんこかん字ドリル 小学1年生” (The Most Fun Kanji Drill Book in Japan: Poop Kanji for First Grade)

I saw this on Amazon Japan a few months ago and had a good chuckle. Someone is a genius! Do you know how much my kids love potty-humor? Hahaha.

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So I was totally on board when my son’s first-grade teacher at Japanese School wanted every student in her class to have a copy of this kanji workbook. And you know what? My son LOVES it. I hear him reading this book out loud to his sister in the mornings. I have to force him to stop working in the book sometimes. Would your kids be motivated to learn kanji if they had a workbook like this?

Here are some sample pages:

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The translation for the first example sentence above is: “Today’s weather forecast is sunny, partly poopy.”

There are unko/poop kanji workbooks for grades 1-6. I’m not sure how many 6th graders would like this learning style, but my first grader sure likes it. They can be bought at Amazon Japan, here (I am not affiliated with Amazon Japan).

You can find out more at: https://unkokanji.com/

Kanji-Learning Videos!

3 May

There’s a lot of hiragana-learning videos for kids, but there’s still very few kanji-learning videos for kids (as of 2017). I hope someone will create some high-quality kanji videos in the near future. In the meantime, here are some kanji videos I’ve found. Mostly geared towards adults but I think kids could benefit as well.

This first video IS geared toward kids but is outdated. It is part of a series called 児童教育 右脳イメージトレーニング (Image Training for Children).

This next video is by Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com, and is very well done.

Learn the Kanji Basics with Williams College:

Learning kanji with animation, by キッズボンボン:

By the Japan Channel:

By 英会話のEnglish Garden:

By Easy KANJI Lesson:

First Grade Kanji by LetsLearnJapanese:

 

If you come across any great kanji-learning resources, please leave a comment!

Fun Way to Practice Kanji

1 May

My daughter is now in 3rd grade at Japanese School. The amount of new kanji they have to learn every week is, to be honest, overwhelming. It is very difficult to practice, memorize, and retain hundreds of kanji, especially when you don’t live in Japan and aren’t exposed to Japanese words all the time.

Oftentimes, “kanji-practicing time” is accompanied by lots of whining and feet-dragging. I have been trying to brainstorm ways to practice kanji that isn’t so dreary. Here is one game I thought up that my daughter really enjoyed.

 

  1. First, practice writing the kanji you are trying to learn in chalk. I drew squares and my daughter wrote the kanji within the squares.
  2. Then to play the game, call out the kanji in random order. The other player runs/jumps to that kanji. Take turns if you’d like!

This turned out to be a great way to practice both writing and reading kanji, and we got in a little bit of exercise as well. This game can be used to learn hiragana or katakana too!

I’m hoping to share more kanji-practicing ideas with you in the future. What are some of your tips for learning and retaining kanji?

Benesse Challenge Touch Review!

9 Sep

 

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Last year I introduced you to Benesse’s Challenge Touch/Kodomo Challenge program on this post. The program is for elementary aged children and offers a monthly downloadable curriculum. Many of you were just as interested in this program as I was.
This summer when I visited Tokyo, I happened upon their new Aoyama Area Benesse in the Shibuya/Omotesando neighborhood. The one in Aoyama is the flagship store, but there are locations all over Japan. These “Area Benesse” offices can help you answer questions about Benesse programs and products, sign up for services, try out materials, etc.

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When we entered the building, we were immediately greeted by very friendly staff. One staff member helped my 7 and 5-year olds get started on some activities while I asked another staff member questions.

The biggest question I had was, “Can we use the Challenge Touch program in the United States?“.

The answer was yes… and maybe. Yes, as long as you have reliable internet connection, you can use the Challenge Touch tablet and download the monthly curriculum anywhere. The only problems you then face are:

  • Benesse will only ship its products to a Japanese address (at least that’s how it is currently). So you will either need to go to Japan and buy it while you are there (we had them ship the tablet to our hotel) or have it sent to a friend or relative, then have them ship it to you.
  • If your tablet happens to break, you will need to pay the shipping back to Japan, as well as have your friend/relative ship you the new one, which can be costly and a hassle.

We decided to take the risks and sign up to do the Challenge Touch program for one year. I thought the pricing was very reasonable. With the exchange rate the way it is now, it came down to about $25 per month (and the tablet is free as long as you continue the program for at least 6 months!). I also signed up for the insurance program, which was only about $15 per year. If you sign up for insurance, if your tablet breaks, you can get a new one for around $30 (otherwise I think they said a new tablet costs about $300).

A few days after putting in our order, our package arrived. In it was our tablet computer and some paper educational materials like workbooks and a kanji dictionary. (They actually sent us materials for the wrong grade at first. I contacted them and they immediately sent me the correct grade level).

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We charged up the device, entered our login information, and then downloaded our first month’s program. It was pretty easy! (If you don’t know Japanese well, all of this might be difficult to navigate. The program is designed for children grades 1-6 who can speak Japanese already, not for adults learning Japanese for the first time).

The program was very easy for my second-grader to figure out on her own. She had a lot of fun playing with all the features. She completed her first two assignments in Kokugo (Japanese) and Sansu (math) and declared it was awesome. The program does a really great job at keeping kids motivated and having fun while learning. We are currently going on month 3 of using the program and she still loves using the Challenge Touch every day.

Other things we love about the Challenge Touch program:

  • There is an online library where you can borrow 5 electronic books at a time. There are hundreds of titles to choose from! This is included in the monthly fee.
  • You can practice writing kanji and play a game where you learn the multiplication tables, even when you are not connected to the internet.
  • My daughter enjoys sending me emails every day.
  • Just 3 months into the program, I can already tell my daughter is better at reading and writing kanji.

Some cons:

  • I didn’t realize Benesse sends out paper materials every few months, even if you just signed up for the electronic version. This is great, except I feel badly my aunt in Japan has to go through the hassle of forwarding all these materials over for us. I wish I could just pay a little extra to have everything sent to the U.S.
  • I am constantly worried my kids are going to break the tablet, haha. We have a rule in our house where they MUST be sitting at a desk if they are using it (no standing, walking around, laying on the couch, etc). We’ve also lectured them about not pressing too hard with the pen. So far so good.
  • The voltage is different here. Easy problem to fix though, we just use a transformer:

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My kids normally use headphones as well when doing benkyou (study) on the Touch. We highly recommend this one! It is sized perfectly for kids’ heads, had a durable cord, and I don’t have to worry about the volume being turned up too loud. Headphones are a must for us because with 3 kids running around our little house, it can get quite noisy and hard to concentrate.

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Bottom line is that we are so glad we took a chance and decided to try the Benesse Challenge Touch program. I can see us continuing for the next few years, and may even get a second device for our son when he begins first grade. I hope that someday soon they will make the program downloadable for iPads– wouldn’t that be nice?

Read more about the Kodomo Challenge program HERE and feel free to contact them if you have any questions. They are very nice!

 

I am NOT affiliated with Benesse and have NOT received any free products or compensation for writing this review. 

Print Kids (printable Japanese educational worksheets for grades preK-3)

2 Mar

We have had a lot of school cancellations due to the weather lately (our city’s coldest February in 150 years!). On those no-school days, I’ve had to devise a plan to keep my kids busy and learning. We’ve been printing some worksheets from ぷりんと きっず (Japanese study free paper website). It has activities that are PERFECT for my preschooler and first-grader. I plan to use this site to keep my kids learning during their summer break as well!

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This is just a small sampling of what’s available on the website. There are learning activities for grades preK-3rd grade, with plans to add more. There’s practice worksheets for hiragana, katakana, kanji, telling time, reading a calendar,counting money, etc. You can see all the subjects covered here on their sitemap. Here are the top 10 worksheet from the site:

printkidsYou can “like” them on facebook to stay up to date: https://www.facebook.com/print.kids.net

I encourage you to visit Print Kids and browse around. You are sure to find something for your kids or yourself!

NHK for School!

27 Jan

Dear Hiragana Mama Readers, thank you so much for sticking around! We welcomed a new baby girl into our family a few months ago and have been savoring these fleeting newborn days. I have even less free time than before, but I really wanted to share this website with you today: NHK for School.

http://www.nhk.or.jp/school/

I visited this site a few years ago and back then, it was nothing to write home about. But now, it is a fabulous GOLDMINE of educational resources for the school-aged student. The site contains thousands of educational episodes and video clips, along with suggestions for how to use it at school/home. The content can be searched by grade level (first grade through high school) or by subject (Japanese, math, social studies, science, art, physical education, etc). It is pretty awesome.

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Now, I wouldn’t recommend this site for people who are just beginning to learn Japanese, or toddlers. If you don’t know a little bit of Japanese, it might be hard to navigate this site. The website was designed for students in Japan to supplement their learning at school. This site is perfect for those of us living overseas trying to teach our children about the Japanese language and culture. I feel like this is a great mid-week supplement to Japanese School (hoshuuko). If you can’t afford TV Japan, this is a great alternative. You can read more about the purpose of NHK for School in English, here.

Anyway, if you haven’t already checked it , click this link and enjoy!! http://www.nhk.or.jp/school/

Doraemon on Disney XD

28 Jul
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image from animeherald.com

I’ve blogged about Doraemon (ドラエモン)before, but if you haven’t heard of it, it is a very popular cartoon/comic that has been around in Japan for many many years. The cartoon books are great for kids, and I’ve been looking into getting my 6-year old this Doraemon Kanji Book. 

I was recently clicking through the Disney Channel and had to do a double-take when I saw “Doraemon” in the lineup! I guess Disney X D has started airing an English-language version of Doraemon starting this month (news article by The Japan Times HERE). I’ve set my DVR to record a few episodes, and am excited to see what the show is like in English. You can see a little preview on the Disney X D website HERE.

Here are some of the first episodes of Doraemon in Japanese, with English subtitles.

 

Have you watched Doraemon in Japanese or English?

Kanji Practice Sheets

6 Aug

Here is a list of great printable kanji practice sheets! On all of these sites, the kanji are divided by grade level. Master the First Grade (一年生) kanji, then go to the next level. Please leave a comment if you know of any other great websites or resources for learning kanji.

1. Happy Lilac

Happy Lilac also has other great printables for elementary-aged children HERE.

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2.  子育て、ことば育て (Kotoba.littlestar.jp)

(This website might be by the same people who made the Happy Lilac website… they look very similar)

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3.  Jakka.jp

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4.  Nekopy.com

This website doesn’t have printables, but has great interactive games for reviewing kanji

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5. Kanji1006.com

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Related Posts:

Hiragana Practice Sheets

Katakana Practice Sheets

Kanji Learning Prep

1 Jul

In just a year from now, my daughter will begin learning kanji at Japanese School. In the first grade (6 years old), students typically learn to read and write 80 kanji characters. I am going to begin working on creating a “Kanji Practice Sheets” page, similar to my “Hiragana Practice Sheets”  and “Katana Resources” pages. Do you know any GREAT websites for learning kanji? If so, please let me know so I can include them on the list.

In the meanwhile, here are some YouTube videos about leaning kanji that are geared toward children:

“部首のうた” by Jun Egusa

漢字大好き 1

漢字アニメ「森」by 吉野 登志也 (more videos here)

 

P.S. THANK YOU so much to everyone who has “liked” the Hiragana Mama facebook page! –>

Chibi Maruko-chan

26 Feb

Did anyone else grow up watching/reaching Chibi Maruko Chan(ちびまる子ちゃん)? Not only is this popular cartoon series fun to read, but great for learning Japanese words and learning about Japanese culture. (Click HERE to see the original cartoon series by Sakura Momoko on Amazon)

I  recently discovered a new series of educational cartoon books called “満点ゲットシリーズ (Get a Perfect Score Series) featuring Chibi Maruko-chan, and I am in love with them!!! They are meant for elementary-aged and older students, and PERFECT for an adult like me who wants a good review/brush up on their Japanese. If you happen upon these books, I highly recommend them! Click HERE to see all the books in this series.

There are books for learning kanji, keigo (polite Japanese), Japanese idioms, haiku, etc. There’s even books for learning math and social studies too. I want to read them all!

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There are several copies available on Amazon.com and Ebay, and one book in the series at JBox.com. Let me know if you find them anywhere else! My daughter’s Japanese School has most of these books so I’ve been borrowing one every few weeks to read.

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